Printing and Design Tips: August 2017, Issue #193

A Whole Passel of Options for Promotional Marketing

The goal of marketing is to get your brand in front of your potential clients so they will think of you first when they need the service or product you offer.

In the world of promotional marketing, you have a multitude of options for reinforcing your brand, including branded garments, pens, cups—you name it. Anything your potential client uses on a regular basis will be an ideal “base” for your logo. These products are like a daily phone call, a reminder that you are available for business. Every time your client uses the promotional item, your logo is right there in front of them.

Rationale for Promotional Items

Each month I receive a free magazine about promotional marketing. In reading the current issue, I was struck by the number of products on which you can display your logo. I use the term “logo” rather than “brand” because I think of “brand” as a more comprehensive term.

A brand includes all the beneficial qualities that come to mind when your client sees your logo. For instance, if you represent a grocery store, maybe your brand reflects freshness, nutrition, sustainability, price consciousness, and friendly service. These qualities may be reflected in your logo and also (and especially) in the promotional items on which you print your logo. When your client or potential client sees the promotional item (sometimes referred to as a “tchotchke,” which in Yiddish means a little trinket or knickknack), she or he will associate the feelings, thoughts, and judgments related to your company brand with the promotional item itself.

To go back to the promotional marketing magazine, one reason I like to read this periodical is that it gives me an overview of what products are ideal for such branding. This can be a seasonal suggestion on the part of the magazine (sports caps and lounge chairs for the summer, for instance, along with short-sleeved shirts). Or it can be the magazine’s confidence in a promotional item’s year-round utility (pens, cups, and messenger bags, for example). Remember that two of the main qualities of a successful promotional product are that it is branded in some way (company logo, company name) and that it is useful. The client has to have a need for it on a regular basis. It can’t just be something that looks nice, that your prospective client will put on a shelf and forget.

With this in mind, here are some suggestions.

This particular issue of this particular magazine includes wristbands, t-shirts, tank-top shirts, caps, casual pants (such as gym sweat pants and athletic shorts), dress ties, swimming pool flip-flop sandals, and warm-up jackets). As you can see, many of these will be seasonal, but there are a lot of different sports played in most if not all seasons. And people love to display their team affiliations.

Food and Drink
People love to eat and drink. Some food-related items have even taken on an air of sophistication (wine and artisan beers, for instance) that a client may want to project. Bottle labels are a good start (for wine and beer that you want to highlight as a branded item), but this category extends further to fabric coolers, cups and mugs, cookies and cakes (that can be inkjet printed with food coloring), mints (in little paper pouches with your imprinted logo), sports water bottles (everyone gets thirsty, so your clients may carry this product everywhere), beer can coolers and six-pack coolers, beer bottle cooling jackets, fabric lunch bags, even cooking grills themselves.

Wine really has become a category in and of itself. In this light, this promotional marketing magazine includes wine pourers/stoppers, individual fabric bottle coolers, wine cooler tubs, wine opening tools (sommelier’s tools), wine yokes (hands-free wine holders that strap around your neck), and clear wine flute glasses.

You can even print on footballs now (and there are some direct-to-object inkjet presses that will print right on the side of a football). Beyond this you can print logos on seat cushions (for stadiums), frisbees, backpacks for hiking, cooling towels for the gym, big foam printed hands with a pointing index finger, and directors’ chairs and even tents, so you can watch the sports while avoiding breaking a sweat.

Office Supplies
Computers have provided lots of little things that you can brand with your logo (such as USB drives and flexible rubber keyboards), things that your clients will use daily. But the simplest of office supplies can be ideal for promotions as well. These include calendars (a minimum of 365 client exposures to your brand in a year), spiral-bound date books, pens, post-it pads (especially ones that have been die cut into a unique shape), highlighter pens of various colors, and even table throws (printed table covers for your business conventions).

How These Are Produced

As I looked through this promotional marketing magazine, I thought about how some of the items had been decorated, particularly since they are made of many different materials in many different shapes.

Screen Printing
For longer runs of practically anything, screen printing is ideal. The idea is to use a squeegie to press thick ink through a screen onto the substrate. Image areas on the screen are open so the ink can pass through, while non-image areas of the design are blocked out. A separate screen is used for each color. Simple one- to three-color work is ideal, but I have seen screen printing vendors do a good job with four-color work using halftone screens. This takes skill since the ink is very thick (that is, the halftone rulings must be somewhat coarse). Due to the extensive preparation (make-ready work), this technology is ideal for long runs (you wouldn’t want to make ten t-shirts this way, for instance).

Dye Sublimation Printing
This is ideal for fabric. Ink is either jetted onto a transfer sheet (which is then placed flat against the fabric), or jetted directly onto the fabric, and then high heat turns the ink from a solid into a gas (without the interim stage of its being a liquid). The ink goes into the fibers of the fabric and bonds with them. The resulting product has both durability and color brilliance. Dye sub printing is best for polyester blends. This is a digital process, so it can be varied from item to item. (That is, it’s ideal for both short runs and personalization.)

Inkjet Printing
Inkjet printing is similar to dye sub printing, but it is better suited to cotton fabric (dye sub is more appropriate for polyester and blends). Success with both of these processes requires extensive knowledge of inks, fabric pre- and post-treatment, and printing, so talk with a specialist in the field first. Make sure you use the right technique and the right inks for your particular fabric.

In addition to fabric decoration, inkjet printing is great for short runs that you might otherwise screen print. I’ve seen ingenious structures (called “jigs”) for holding office pens and drinking cups in place for inkjet printing. For durability, consider UV LED inks (which are cured with UV light, and which can be printed on non-porous substrates).

Direct to substrate inkjet printers also exist, which can print directly on small, irregularly-shaped items like footballs and water bottles.

You can even use a programmable sewing machine to add a logo to fabric (messenger bags, caps, fold-up fabric chairs, shirts, and such). Embroidery with sewing thread will provide an upscale look and will be more durable than any of the other processes.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]